This year has seen plenty of artists dig back into the past for inspiration, embedding themselves into the ‘70s like wood paneling with macrame accents. From the faded desert high of Rose City Band to the wrinkled postcards of Cut Worms and the upcoming pre-dawn sighs of Pearl Charles, there’s a pervasive sway of West Coast calm from another time. The debut from Sam Burton falls in-between the time-traversed radio waves of those offerings. Burton’s voice, as the good folks over at Tompkins Square point out, evokes a bit of Roy Orbison’s wearier moments, away from the lights and upswung soul of his more pop works. In the same respect, there’s a touch of Glen Campbell in Sam’s delivery, and much of I Can Go With You sounds like Bobby Gentry might show up for a duet at any point.
That might paint Burton into a sort of turtle-necked pop corner, but that’s not entirely accurate. While he could easily slip in and out of time with that sound vocally, musically the record has a more lost highway country stamp on it. With a wounded countenance at the forefront of his songwriting, Sam sets himself up rifling through a smoke-curled pile of private press casualties — limping like Bob Desper, staring off into the distance like Jim Sullivan, or waiting for the sunrise with Dave Bixby. It’s the kind of record that would have (and still just might) wind up a collector’s treasured find. Burton’s guitars don’t come with flash, there are no psychedelics to obscure the pain, but there’s an innate companionship in his songs. If last call lands like a crushing blow, Sam’s songs help heal the ache that’s left untouched by substance or sobriety alike. This album’s been rolling around my ears for a few weeks, but it pairs quite well with a cold night with morning feeling like it’s taking its time to come.
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